Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I'm recommending a new college course: Top eight traits of crazy fucktard bosses

A co-worker friend of mine, David, came to my office today. He closed my door. He was close to tears.

“How did you do it?” he asked. “When Kathleen was here?”

Kathleen is my now-retired boss. Her psychosis was well-known to people at the company and in the community. Fuck, maybe even to people on Mars.

Word of the mental instability of David’s new boss, Rich, was starting to spread as well. I wasn’t surprised David sought me out. I had survived five years under Kathleen. Four assistants, three communications directors, five part-timers and when she left, I was the last one standing. That makes me a bit of a local celebrity. In fact, at the local Blimpie there’s a sub named "Mrs. Mullet Can Take a Beating."

“David,” I said, “if you want it to work, you have to go dead inside. You have to befriend your abuser. Have you heard of Stockholm Syndrome?”

He sat down. “I think about killing him,” he said. “I’m a father. I shouldn’t be thinking of running someone over with my car.”

“It’s ok,” I said. “I thought about rat poison and antifreeze. I still think about it, and she’s gone.”


I felt immense sadness for him. Having a tyrant of a boss can turn your life upside-down. Screw shitty health insurance, these pariahs are what make the workplace insufferable. You can take your Lit 101s and your History 203s and shove them. If you’re going to enter the workforce, what you really need in college is “How to survive the many personalities of your supervisor.”

Then you need, “How to survive when your bipolar boss is best friends with HR and the CEO.” And then you need, “How to talk your spouse out of attacking your bipolar boss with a baseball bat after you come home in tears again.”

Is quitting your job an option? Sure, quitting is always an option. But if you’ve worked hard to get where you are and you have a good thing going—excuse me, had—then you have every right to stay where you are.

David supports his family; quitting isn’t an option for him.

For fun, David and I sat down and compared notes. The more we talked, the more it became glaringly obvious that his boss and my former boss had eerily similar personalities. They were both:

#1 Grossly insecure
If my boss wore a new outfit to work and no one complimented her on it, she’d call another supervisor and cry that her staff didn’t support her. When David’s boss Rich introduced him to his wife, Rich asked in all seriousness, “Aren’t I the better looking one?”

#2 Housing multiple personalities
Kathleen praised my work one day; trashed it the next. Ditto for Rich.

#3 Lacking closure from childhood

Kathleen once suggested a “getting to know you” bagel session to build inter-personal relationships. During her “favorite childhood memory,” she burst into tears and told us how her parents left her at the babysitters’ all the time. I hadn’t even cream-cheesed my bagel yet. David’s boss swears he “constructively builds people up” because he never got it from his dad. Mmmmhmm.

#4 Brilliant, adept liars with selective memory
These people are such good liars they’d pass a polygraph test. Their selective recollection of events and conversations suits their agenda and is so finely tuned, the idea of truth is laughable.

#5 Narcissistically blind to the effects of their abuse
Once, after making a co-worker cry, Kathleen said, “How do you think I feel knowing I made you cry?” After giving David a crappy performance evaluation that prevented him from getting a raise, Rich asked, “Are you okay, David? Is something on your mind? I’m worried about you.”

#6 Paranoid
Both Kathleen and Rich said they wanted more teamwork, but if they walked by an office where their underlings were talking, they’d later remind everyone that they were the boss and that office chatter shouldn’t be going on without them.

#7 Calculating
When Kathleen wanted to get rid of me, she suggested I move to a different office so I’d get more visibility. The new office didn’t have a working phone and I mysteriously lost access to my files. When I missed deadlines and calls from reporters, Kathleen told the CEO I was dropping the ball and should be let go. Rich employed tactics from #3 to cover up his backhanded moves.

#8 Incompetent
Just.Wow. Kathleen didn't know how to save a file under a different name. Rich often drew circles to illustrate his "complex" ideas.


Year after year we send college graduates out into the workforce unprepared for what may be their biggest workforce challenge. It's a travesty. These a-holes plague harmless people day in and day out, and no one does a thing.

I bet my little list is only the tip of the iceberg. The tippity, rat poisoned, antifreezed, brakes cut, tip tip.


Anonymous said...

On my first day of work under the boss I call "Barbie Monster" she told me that when I had time, she wanted me to go through all of her files because she knew that she had lost a diamond from her ring in the file cabinet and the last secretary couldn't find it.
No wonder the custodians used to pee on the side of her desk at night!

Frogs in my formula said...

Nice! Stealth urination.

Everyday Goddess said...

Make it an online course and you're a millionaire in no time.

Mrsbear said...

At the very least you should produce a pamphlet for the uninitiated.

jo said...

Love it how spouses say 'just tell 'em to get effed' as an answer to a tyrant boss.As much as I would love to I don't really need a solution as much as an ear to vent to.

The Mother said...

I don't understand how these whack jobs get to be managers. But then, I know nothing of the corporate environment. Luckily.

VandyJ said...

It's the peter principle--a person will rise to the level of their own incompetence. They are everywhere. And a course would be benificial if only to warn the newbies that they will have to deal with these kind of bosses at some point.

Mama Badger said...

And Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda thought they had it hard? Though your bosses sound oddly like my ex-husband...

Anonymous said...

I had a boss from hell earlier in my career for a LONG LONG 3.5 years.

A couple of years ago, one afternoon, I felt the universe slightly 'right' itself. When I got home and read the paper, there it was - the reason for the return to normalcy - her obituary!

I clipped it and put it on my kitchen bulletin board and made a vow to leave it there until I quit smiling and feeling happy everytime I glanced at it.

It took almost two years, but I've finally purged that bitch right out of my head. YAY!!!

Lindy said...

I had a boss that told the guys in the office that they should use the two wipe rule to save on toilet paper. Two wipes and you should be done. (I SWEAR!) Needless to say, when he walked around doing no-picks all the time, we cringed.

Pricilla said...

It is really bad when CEOs don't recognize the harm these types do to their business. You would think that when so many "underlings" need firing that they would realize the problem lies with the management not the team.

Brandy@YDK said...

congrats on outlasting that beast.

Sparkling said...

It's the pathological lying and passing the blame that bothers me the most. I never had a boss that did that until 2 years ago and I can't get over the lies.

Lisa said...

I fucking love this post. Even though the memories are making me t-t-twitch a little.

Lisa said...

How 'bout the boss who has no self-awareness and picks his nose, no, actually digs for the booger while trying to convince you of some indiscretion you've committed. Oh, and then wipes it under his chair or desk while you try not to puke.

How they make to their post as boss is a mystery!

SLColman said...

Been there done that and never want to do it again... Sigh why do people have to be like that??!!

Stephanie in Suburbia said...

This is the most fantastic summary of every crappy boss I've ever had. I had one whose "boyfriend" lived in Italy and she loudly complained they weren't "doing the deed" enough. There was also a time when we had a gift exchange at work and I got a crock pot and she said "You're going to need that now that you're engaged." It was extra hilarious b/c she'd just finished bragging about how she'd won some bogus business award for being a woman CEO. So hard in a man's world, but once you're engaged, you better suck it up and get to slow cooking, baby!

Keely said...

I think you should make this an online course, too. Or at the very least, a public service announcement.

I have a job interview next week for a job that sounds EXACTLY the same as mine. If they offer me the same pay, I will totally take the lateral move just to get rid of my current boss.

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